The last few years, I’ve ended offseason with a race. While I’m not *quite* there yet, this was definitely what you would call a “rust buster” as in I haven’t raced a triathlon in about 9 months, since my disastrous Kerrville Tri cramps-n-crash-n-burn. It’s always exciting to toe the line (or the beach in this case) with more questions than answers. How is my base fitness (aka – what’s left after slacking for 3 months)? How is my mental game? Am I healed or is there still residual ick in there? Can I handle my new bike well? Do I remember how to pee anywhere else besides a porta potty?
Spoiler alert: I peed in the lake.
Saturday was an epic family cookout. Normally, I’d be worried about being on my feet so much, but I am used to the 10k++ steps per day and don’t have a lot of residual fatigue, so it was fine. I slept well this week, but I slept terribly before the triathlon. Not for any real reason, I just kept waking up because Zliten was fidgeting (usually I sleep through any of that like a rock) and my book was interesting and I’m not used to an 8:30pm bedtime.
Race morning alarms are what they are, so at 5am, I was up and at ’em. I had a belvita with some almond butter and grabbed some caff chews for later. We puttered around all morning, I didn’t get a warmup run but I did get a warmup swim, and I porta pottied like a champ and peed in the lake. I went from wheee, we’re doing a race… to WHEEEEEEEEEE! RACE!!! over the course of consuming my caff chews, so all was well with the enthusiasm. I sent Zliten and Matt off to race, cheered them into T1, and then five thousand minutes later, I tucked into my wave and got going.
I call this one Sunrise over Expensive Bicycles.
I sized up my wave and thought… ok… I can take most of these ladies on the swim and bike at least. I lined up close to the front and found a lane and swam. I intentionally kept it about 3 gears below redline. I’m not swim trained right now, and I had no idea how taxing a the full race would be on my endurance at this point in time, and the last thing I wanted to do was blow up. I concentrated on smooth long strokes, avoiding ALL THE FUCKING PRICKLY PLANTLIFE (and failing), and staying at the decent-effort-but-not-gasping pace.
I’d say I did well. I ended up getting out of the water 5th in my age group, and besides a slight rookie mistake of not swimming in far enough, I’m happy. It’s an average time for me for this race, about 15 seconds off my best, and that’s all I can ask for at this moment in time.
Swim: 11:28/500m (it was long – I came out with 600 yards). 5/21 AG
I navigated the barefoot rocky run with reasonable fearlessness. My new aero bottle FELL off my bike when I unracked, I fumbled with one of my socks for too long, and my bike was not in the best position in transition (longer run in cleats than normal), but all in all it didn’t suck too, too badly. I’ve had way worse first transitions of the year.
Coming in smiling on the Death Star, so you know it can’t have gone THAT badly… thank you Pat McCord for photographing us all!
I got out and had some n00b moments with my clips (my new cleats just aren’t playing nice with my pedals, or I’m just bad at clips, or both), and then got going and ahhhhhhh. When you don’t have to stop or dodge traffic or anything, this bike is like BUTTER. Pass, pass, pass, pass, pass. Since I swam well, I only got one or maybe two people in my age group here, but being in one of the last waves means (glass half empty) dodging around EVERYONE and (glass half full) getting the rush of passing so many people.
Everything went well except for a few things. One – this girl and I were going about the same pace, and I could tell she was a newbie (a very fit newbie but a newbie). I would try to pass her, get a little ahead, but she would stay on my wheel and not fall back. Typically, you leapfrog with someone your same pace, they pass you, you recover a bit, pass them back, then later they pass you, etc. It’s nice. This was not.
Second – new bike had me all kerfuffled. I totally forgot how to eat even though I have this sexy aero bento box full of gels. I meant to take one around halfway and I didn’t. I thought I drank my full bottle of Scratch because I couldn’t get a sip and I drank less than half. No matter how I adjust, the aero position hurts my arms (all over this time, not just the delts like when I rode on the trainer) after 10 or so minutes and that was even with playing with all sorts of position changes.
Lastly, the traffic closures were a joke. There was a good few miles in the middle where the cars were ducking into our lane and forcing the cyclist either on the very edge of a rough country road with lots of potholes and bumps or crusing slowly behind them. It was a huge buzzkill when all I wanted to do was FLY on the Death Star. If I was smart, I would have used that time to take a gel but… hindsight is 20/20 and it’s hard to remember to be smart when you’re angry.
I hammered the last few miles in and when I looked at my garmin for the first time, I was actually rocking some really great speed. I stayed in aero A LOT more than I did on the other bike, and I played with all my shifters, and while my quads and my arms ached, the rest of my legs felt way fresher than normal.
Best bike split on this course ever. This year of bikes is starting off well and going to be the best! Fourth in my age group and I was REALLY close to catching third.
Bike: 45:25 (garmin said moving time was 44:48 for 18.8 mph) for 14 miles 4/21 AG
Everything went according to plan except the jerkhole next to me had racked his bike right on top of my shit (and he had plennnnnnty of room) and my stuff was all in disarray. Not my best T2 ever because of that, but this is pretty decent considering what I was working with.
Here is where it shows I have not been training. With the swim and the bike, I don’t lose fitness really quickly and can almost pick up my training right where I leave off. With the run, if I take more than a week or two off, my running paces significantly fall off and take a while to come back. I haven’t run much in 3 months. I knew this, and while I was hoping for magic race day miracles, I was planning for reality.
When I got going, I saw my pace was about 30-60 sec off what I would expect if I was trained. No big deal. I ignored it and kept trying to reel people in and keep my head positive. After a mile, I checked in and yep, pace still the same, effort still feels about what I’d expect racing a sprint tri in the deathly heat (feels like upper 90s at that point), so I switched over to heart rate to monitor that instead.
It was a little on the low side (171), so I worked on shoving it up to where I know I can maintain without redlining (175) and then put on my cruise control. It was maybe one quarter of a gear harder than I was going previously. I didn’t have much else to give. My pain cave is shallow right now.
The run was kind of a blur. I remember dumping all the water over my head to stay cool and catching Raul about half a mile in and chatting for a sec, and kind of zoning out in the middle watching the little number on my watch, and then switching over to total time near the end and seeing if I could will myself to catch my PR of 1:30:30. I sped up a little, I passed a few people, and then last year’s time ticked by, and I threw my bottle at Zliten when I saw him because I was done with it and then there was the finish.
Run time: 30:32 for 3 miles (garmin showed it a little short with a 10:29 pace) 9/21 AG
Overall time: 1:32:01, for 5/21 (top quarter) in my age group. Top 30% of all females. Solid top half overall because dudes are stupid fast.
All done! Time to go drink beer!
Do I wish I could have pulled out a PR? Always. But I had no business expecting it and I’m not disappointed finishing with my second best time in six years completely untrained. I love the bike PR and how I felt out there. I’ll take the swim. I know I have to work for the run and I haven’t been doing that. I’ve ran 36 miles total since the marathon. Yes. My mental game’s on point – I kept my head on my shoulders and didn’t blow up mentally or physically. I made mistakes in transition (or had them made for me) but I remembered how to do all the things. All in all, I am THRILLED with the day I had.
What’s next? One last week of doing whatever, and then we start some actual intentional sessions with some work spiced in. Nothing drastic, but it starts looking like a training plan instead of a social calendar. My next race is on this course in August, and I’d love to annihilate all my paces here.
Footnote: there’s a reason I’ve been avoiding these hard efforts for months. Y’all, I was SO HUNGRY. I could not stop eating for 2 days. If I’m going to try to continue to pursue this #projectraceweight thing a little further, I need to be REALLY smart about what I eat on days when I have long or hard efforts.